Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices Edited by S.K Ali and Aisha Saeed

The holy month of Ramadan is the 9th month on the Islamic Calendar. It is the holiest month of the year for Muslims as it was during the month of Ramadan when Islam was born. This is the time Muslims observe the fast during daylight hours to remember those less fortunate and to also reflect on our lives and remember to remain humble. A time for prayer, a time of family and togetherness. Of course, this year – everything has changed but one thing that shows hope during a challenging time is a beautiful collection of short stories called “Once Upon an Eid” A compilation of wonderful short stories composed by Muslim authors from around the world. This was a chance to share our most sacred holiday, Eid, which marks the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Many call this “The Muslim Christmas” and whilst we don’t celebrate a birthday, Eid is the one word that can bring out mixed emotions and memories for the Islamic community. In this particular book, authors share what Eid can mean to them from their own perspectives and cultures. From the sound of frying samosas to the comfort of bean pie or the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, gift-giving and holiday parties. Whatever it is, Eid is a very special day for Muslims worldwide.

As a Muslim reader and blogger, I was honoured to have received an advance copy to be one of the first readers in Australia to enjoy this amazing book. I was also very elated to see a compilation that brings positive light to our community and faith by telling stories of our most auspicious occasion. I believe this is a compilation that can be enjoyed by both Muslims and non Muslims alike as it’s told in a way that many can relate from family ties to celebration, food and togetherness. The compilation is so cleverly constructed that includes not just short stories but a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations. The emotional responses to each experience shared in this compilation can be summed up in one word: joy

What I loved most about this compilation was how diverse it was. Although the authors were Muslim, each author was of a different culture and each story brought out many different cultures and rituals during Eid. It was amazing to discover different cultures through stories. What I also loved was how not every story was a happy story – realistically not all Muslims have the joy of really celebrating a happy Eid due to family issues, finance or health and this too was beautifully captured in this compilation. The graphic story within the compilation was also a favourite and was quite clever. The editors did an amazing job in putting this together and I truly believe this compilation is an opportunity for Muslims to read something they can relate to as well as reach out and bridge a gap with the wider community.

The full list of Once Upon an Eid contributors include: G. Willow Wilson (Alif the Unseen, Ms. Marvel), Hena Khan (Amina’s Voice, Under My Hijab), N. H. Senzai (Shooting Kabul, Escape from Aleppo), Hanna Alkaf (The Weight of Our Sky), Rukhsana Khan (Big Red Lollipop), Randa Abdel-Fattah (Does My Head Look Big in This?), Ashley Franklin (Not Quite Snow White), Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (Mommy’s Khimar), Candice Montgomery (Home and Away, By Any Means Necessary), Huda Al-Marashi (First Comes Marriage), Ayesha Mattu, Asmaa Hussein, and Sara Alfageeh.

As you can probably tell, this book brought a lot of emotion out of me. I am so thankful this book has been created and I hope the world can share in on this. With special thanks to The Nerd Daily and Amulet Books for sending me an Advance Review Copy of this wonderful book
-Annie

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state candidate – as long as he’s behind the scenes. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.

Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is cancelled, her parents are separating and now her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing – with some awkward guy she hardly knows …

Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer – and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural crush of the century is another thing entirely.

A real, raw, engaging and important read for all. I was very excited when I first heard about this amazing author collaboration and when I had the pleasure of reading it, I was blown away. Imagine being a person of faith living in a world where political agendas attempt to oppress your way of life right down to how you dress? Oh wait.. that happens now!!

This book was so well written in two perspectives told from a Jewish boy (Jamie) who becomes friends with a Muslim girl (Maya) as they are partnered to go canvassing during an election campaign. It’s not a clash of faiths but a union of teenagers who have the same outlook in life. What they experience during this campaign was not only interesting but real and somewhat disturbing. Sadly I’ve shared some of the experiences Maya goes through.

I enjoyed both Jamie and Maya as characters. Both of them are flawed, have their own family issues and different backstories but draw strength from each other and grow as characters as the story proceeds. I also related to their frustration of being 17, expected to know and understand the world even expected to take interest in politics yet too young to vote.

Above all what I loved was how this book was not a fairytale. It wasn’t sugarcoated it’s was REAL but it shows hope in a world that feels bleak for many and I cannot thank both Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed enough for casting their two brilliant minds together and writing this book.

With special thanks to Simon & Schuster Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie